Go ahead, corporal. I’ll cover you.   1 comment

Last Tuesday I brought in four complete armies, taught two new players, and played two games.

Justin has been talking about trying new skirmish games, so I decided I’d bring in a couple of armies to teach MERCS to anyone who was interested. MERCS is a sci-fi skirmish game, decidedly close-ranged and squad-level, but without a heavy melee “scrum” component, and also without obsessing over distance measurement and optimization, and giving an enormous amount of control over individual miniatures.

And once you know it, it’s one of the fastest games out there. Each army consists of six unique miniatures, of which you build a “squad” of five for a default game (or fewer, for teaching or playing tighter scenarios). Each miniature from both players rolls a 10-sided die for initiative each turn, and then they all activate counting down in sequence. Each miniature takes one action on their turn – moving (using the card template for their figure) or combat (shooting, or taking a “Class Combat Maneuver” specific to their troop class) or “holding”, no action but boosting initiative for next turn.

That’s how you play, basically. The charm is in the details – differences in weapon firing modes, base-width “snap to cover” slide free with any action,  spending movement points to climb stairs inside buildings, about how weapons damage armour so that subsequent shots can injure troops, etcetera. Advanced rules (but still important) include bounding (for fast, coordinated squad movement), Overwatch and Suppression (firing wildly all over the battlefield to keep enemy troops pinned down).

I brought in four corporate armies. The CCC Yellowjackets are post-American troops with self-repairing nanotech armour, very competent all around. The USCR Skana are post-Russian bruisers in elephantine super-thick plating. The KemVar Dogs of War are nimble assassins with active camouflage and a base in former Brazil. And the Keizai Waza are a bushido-driven band with an atomic edge – quirky armour and an on-board tacnuke.

I taught Justin first, with him using CCC and me using USCR. He took the Leader, Heavy, Incinerator, Medic and Sniper; I used the Commissar, Sniper, Medic, Mechanic and Behemoth.

Justin’s Yellowjackets managed to get the advantage in a little killing zone on the east side of the board. Sustained fire managed to short out my Commissar’s armour and despite the best efforts of my medic, he eventually went down. My sniper pinned his sniper to the wall, but also got him out of the line of fire to heal up.

When Justin got the incinerator into close range, he was able to flood the remains of my core squad with fire, thinning the ranks considerably. The Behemoth held his own on the west side of the table, laying down withering fire turn after turn, but eventually succumbing to the closing pincer of the rest of the CCC troops. Justin won the day!

Next I taught Steve. It was later, so my rules summation was more fractured. Steve used the same squad as Justin so I knew how to explain their rules, while I took the wacky Keizai Waza – the Daimyo, Pathfinder, Forward Observer, Sniper and Heavy Hybrid.

Early on we got our troops into cover in the densely-packed city. The cover gave my forward opportunity to quickly close with his leader and incinerator, and the Daimyo gave the order to release the kraken warhead, immediately damaging his two critical troops. A sniper duel broke out in the open terrain to the west, with my guy taking the stairs to get up the tower and hold the high ground.

The coolest part, though, was when we clustered around the complicated central building, with a bunch of marketplace stalls and a second-storey window. Assault rifles at short range eventually took out my Pathfinder, but between the sniper and FO the Waza were able to trap Steve’s guys from a number of angles.

Ash Barker has written up excellent FAQs and strategy articles on the Mercs Minis site and forums, and it’s worth checking those out after you’ve gotten a feel for the game. It’s amazing how much each troop can actually do – only one thing per turn, but each action is significant. Movement is very specific — move the WHOLE card length unless you hit and snap to a wall – so you can’t obsess over millimetres like in Warmachine. Initiative is HUGE – acting at just the right time can make the difference between taking their guy out and getting a face full of flamethrower.

And most importantly, you win by getting the troops in a squad to work together. Get your assault trooper to suppress the enemy while your heavy gets into position. Get your sniper into high ground. Get your leader and medic near your key troops to boost rolls and keep them alive. You win by thinking like a squad leader. And that’s awesome.



Posted February 2, 2012 by Ilan in Battle Report, MERCS

One response to “Go ahead, corporal. I’ll cover you.

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  1. Ilan! Great to see you post. I hope this is the first of many such posts. The game sounds fun. I was really hesitant about the card movement but the “snap to” that you mentioned sounds like it would make it work out well. Thanks for the overview.

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